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7. Kinston


This tour for our tour participants takes you to Kinston to visit the CSS Neuse Interpretive Center, CSS Neuse III Replica, & CSS Neuse State Site and Governor Richard Caswell Museum.

CSS Neuse Interpretive Center

Historians have learned much about Confederate Navy life from other artifacts salvaged from the CSS Neuse. Museum visitors can see coal rakes used to keep the coal evenly burning in the boat’s huge boilers, cannonballs, ammunition shells, a belt buckle, wrenches, files, shovels, sockets, the cook’s stove, the bell from the CSS Neuse and an intact bottle of Lea and Perrin’s Worcestershire sauce. A rare English-made cuff button from an officer’s coat, a button bearing the N.C. state seal and another with the Confederate Navy emblem are among the treasures on display.

A wall plaque offers information on some of the boat’s crew members, including Capt. Joseph Price and 2nd Lt. Richard Bacot. Also on the wall are photos showing the rescue operation undertaken to bring the CSS Neuse up from its watery grave in the Neuse River.

A cut-out scale model of the boat gives visitors a birds-eye view of life aboard a Civil War gunboat, and a video presents a history of the boat.

CSS Neuse III Replica

Visit the world’s only full-sized facsimile of a Confederate gunboat to realize what a sailor’s life was like during the Civil War. The project was under the direction of master shipbuilder Alton Stapleford. The 158-foot long boat draws visitors from across the United States and from foreign countries. If you’re fortunate, you may visit the Neuse II while teens train as Confederate naval cadets.

The boat rests a scant distance from the “cat hole” in the Neuse River where the original ironclad gunboat was fitted with iron plating.


CSS Neuse State Site and Governor Richard Caswell Museum

The story of Richard Caswell’s life is memorialized in a museum at the state site bearing his name. Caswell was a Revolutionary War hero; North Carolina’s first elected governor and a prominent businessman. He was a delegate to the Second Continental Congress, and only ill health prevented him from becoming a signer of the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution.

One of only three remaining Civil War ironclads, the CSS Neuse was a ram, designed to collide with, and sink enemy boats. Free guided tours of the remnants of the ship are available at the site. She was built in nearby Whitehall, now Seven Springs, just a short distance away. Confederate Naval Cmdr. James W. Cook, a native North Carolinian, oversaw her construction as well as that of the CSS Albemarle and an unnamed ironclad in Tarboro. Iron confiscated from Atlantic & North Carolina Railroad Company tracks between Kinston and New Bern was rolled into plates and used to cover the boat.


The propeller and shafts were made in the Confederate Naval Yard in Charlotte. The boiler is believed to have come from the Baltimore and Ohio No. 34 train, and her engine from a saw mill in New Bern.

The story of the boat’s construction, her short life and her eventual 100-year sleep beneath the waters of the Neuse River is a captivating one. You’ll learn why N.C. Gov. Zebulon Vance allowed railroads to be plundered for iron, why construction was delayed so long, how Union sailors nearly captured the coveted ironclad and why it finally sank with an 8-foot hole in its port side.


Caswell No.1 Fire Station Museum

See some of the late 19th century’s fire equipment, including a truck that was on the scene during Kinston’s devastating fire of 1895 that destroyed nearly all downtown homes and businesses. The building, on the National Register of Historic Places, is the city’s original fire station and the oldest brick structure in Kinston.